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Why cash should be king again


LET’S be honest, digital transactions are damned convenient. I’ve used that slightly blasphemous adjective deliberately, because we are indeed damned by the convenience we think we’re exploiting. I can order a pizza, a washing machine, a book or a conservatory from the comfort of my armchair without even pausing from the crisps I’m eating or the TV programme I’m watching. What’s not to like about that, especially as the ultimate irony is that it’s likely to be cheaper than if I get off my butt and pop down to a local retailer? The only inconvenience is having to get up and answer the door when delivery arrives.

The other day, I went into a tyre depot for a replacement. The member of staff tapped my car registration number into his PC to produce the bill, and said: ‘Did you know your vehicle’s due for an MoT in ten days?’ I did, as it happened, but how incredibly useful and reassuring to know that ‘the system’ can keep an eye on my interests with impromptu reminders like this, wherever I might be. Earlier the same day, I got lost in Hammersmith and didn’t know the way to Charing Cross Hospital, but it wasn’t a problem. Fast fingers on the smartphone produced immediate directions from where I was standing.

The sheer simplicity and convenience of it all, of course, comes at a price. It’s a Faustian pact. ‘Digital’ is a euphemism for ‘public’. Our every digital action is out there, recorded and accessible. And don’t talk to me about the safety of encryption – when a teenage computer geek can hack into the Nasa space programme,  there’s no such thing, not really.

The seductive, Luciferian beauty of digital is irresistible and, like Frodo’s ring, we would find it almost impossible to cast it into the fire (this article and your comments would disappear for a start). Yet the ultimate cost will be immense, in tandem with the final vestiges of our freedoms disappearing altogether.

The real menace of digital is that it joins everything up. Ergo, those in charge of its levers are automatically drawn to its misuse (i.e., pulling those levers in their interests, not ours). If this isn’t already obvious to most people, it soon will be when digital currency becomes manifest. By then, your bank account will be in others’ hands. There is an operational guide produced at the Bank of England in 2021 on executing ‘bail-in’ (as opposed to bail-out) in the event of a bank crashing. It stipulates that in such an event, shareholders and unsecured creditors will bear the brunt of financial responsibility. Sounds almost fair until you realise that your money in such a bank makes you an unsecured creditor. Goodbye to it (no theory here, it’s already been exercised as long ago as 2013 in Cyprus).

Some cautious folk are drawing out reserves of cash and paying for things as they go along. This appears sensible but is subject to three obstacles:

1. Large amounts of cash under the mattress or in the wallet aren’t as safe as in the bank (but then if the bank isn’t safe, that’s less relevant);

2. Fewer organisations and retailers accept cash any more (remember when you could pay your rates in cash at the council offices?);

3. In a digital world, Government can use the simple lever of outlawing cash as an acceptable means of exchange.

An enlightened Government whose own people were at the centre of its commitment might have the courage to defy this international conspiracy and revalue sterling as a national-only currency when the big crash comes. We would then at least have a credible and consistent means of exchange within our own shores. And it would be cash, of course, if there were no banks any longer. Fat chance of that happening, you might say, and you’d be right. But Nature abhors a vacuum, and a black-market culture would surely emerge in the absence of Government support for its own people. Communities would need once more to cohere and produce their own local currencies. That may not be ideal, but needs must, and we all need to start taking responsibility for ourselves and each other in the absence of a competent Government, before we descend into chaos.

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John Drewry
John Drewry
John Drewry has a background in marketing, owning and chairing an advertising agency for many years. He also holds an Equity card as a stage director and actor, and is Patron & Presenter for the Nursing Memorial Appeal.

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